In A Class Of Its Ow

Meet the talents behind Apéritif, Bali’s eclectic fine-dining destination and 1920s-inspired craft cocktail bar.

Executive chef Nic Vanderbeeken is a different man now than when Apéritif Restaurant and Bar was opened in 2018. He is also the captain of a very different team. “There was a huge pressure to start off with a bang when we first opened but from the beginning, Apéritif has always been and will always remain eclectic and flavour-driven,” says the Belgian-native who has called Bali home for the last nine years. With a career that spans continents, Vanderbeeken brought his wealth of experience from France and Belgium’s Michelin-starred restaurants to Bali, starting off at CasCades Restaurant at Viceroy Bali. He derives his style from his European background, love for Indonesian spices and global gastronomy journeys. So, when the elegant 60-seater restaurant opened, he was more than ready to put his personal flavour library to good use. Apéritif’s early eight-course degustation menu told a compelling story of Vanderbeeken’s fondness for Indonesian flavour. There was Karedok, a humble.

West Javanese pickled vegetable salad in kemangi-infused peanut sauce and beurre blanc-poached Papua Crab with jicama. The chef and his team worked tirelessly, building their repertoire and impressing an eclectic mix of international visitors. Then, the pandemic happened. Some of the team members left. At his lowest point when everything ground to a halt, Vanderbeeken even contemplated going back to Belgium. However, Bali is home. He gathered his troops and soldiered on.

“We collaborated with other restaurants in Bali and flew to other cities like Jakarta and Surabaya. Anything, everything to stay afloat,” adds the chef. Fortunately, every cloud has a silver lining. The takeovers exposed Apéritif to the rest of Indonesia, bringing new guests to the restaurant in Ubud. Old and new soldiers also fortified the team. Maxie Millian, Apéritif’s current head chef and one of Indonesia’s brightest talents joined the team last year, bringing his intimate knowledge of the archipelago’s regional cuisine to the table. “Maxie brings his finesse and fine-tuned the flavour, adding depth to the menu and making it even more palatable to our local guests,” says Vanderbeeken. Self-taught sous chef Arvin Tjandra remains steadfast since the pre-opening days, as does sous pastry chef Ida Ayu Chinthya Dewi. The Balinese pastry chef is assuredly carving a niche, one sweet plate at a time. The latest member of the brigade is Putri Tri Aryani. In charge of the day-to-day operations, she brings her elegance and five-starred savoir faire to the restaurant, making guests feel at ease and having a good time. “I am calmer these days. After that trial by fire, Apéritif is now set and together with my team, we will continue to evolve,” says Vanderbeeken.

Housed in a standalone colonial-inspired white mansion, Apéritif is in a class of its own from the very beginning. In Bali, there are only a few restaurants that inspire its guests to dress up to the nines for dinner while throwing caution to the wind at the same time. Arriving at the restaurants instantly teleports one to another era, to a time when dancing the Charleston while sipping Old Fashioned was de rigueur. Guests are invited to come early, preferably before dark, to enjoy a glass of Champagne and amuse bouche at the terrace of Apéritif Bar. As the verdant valley gradually gets misty, guests are shown to their seats in the white dining room where they are given a choice of Signature or Prestige degustation menu. Wine pairings are available, as does a well-stocked cellar where celebrated vintages as well as Old and New Worlds wines are stored. Recently recognised as one of the “Recommended” restaurants on OAD Asia’s Top Restaurants 2022 list, the seven-course menu showcases Apéritif’s mature, flavour-driven eclecticism. Guests will find dishes such as Hokkaido Scallop served with Bell Pepper Chutney, Manadonese-inspired Woku sauce and Dabu Dabu; Canadian Lobster with XO Sauce, Bouillon, Ravioli, and Black Rice Vinegar; and the iconic Venison Wellington with Rendang sauce. Desserts come in two indulgent servings, White Sensation and Chocolate Harmony. The petit fours are served at Apéritif Bar.

Open until the last guest decides to call it a night, Apéritif Bar is located adjacent to the dining room. It is a destination on its own, especially when Panji Wisrawan is in charge. The award-winning head mixologist brings a decade of flair to the bar. Guests are welcomed to sit on the Chesterfield sofa in the corner, enjoying tête-à-tête with their drinks or to sit at the bar where the action takes place. The Balinese moustachioed mixologist is always available to recommend cocktails that suit one’s palate. Be it a classic like Negroni or one of the signature cocktails from the newly launched Bali 1930s-inspired Cocktail Anthology menu, rest assured excellent craft cocktails are part of the Apéritif Bar experience. “It is a tribute to the pioneering artists, anthropologist, writer, and composer who ‘discovered’ the island and later told its stories to the world, making Bali what it is now,” says Wisrawan. The Composer, a homage to Colin McPhee who was the first Western composer to study gamelan, will please guests who like their cocktail smoky and bold. Served in a covered cognac glass, it is a heady concoction made of caramelised pandan whiskey, mezcal, fernet branca, and recycled coffee incense. For those who are partial to drink from a pretty goblet decorated with a peacock feather, The Novelist will be a delight. It is a homage to Vicki Baum who wrote an historical novel about the peasants and nobles during the colonial era, a saucy treat made of aji limo tequila, mezcal, huacatay, passion fruit, and avocado oil. A pool table completes the gentlemen’s club ambience and it usually wouldn’t be long before raucous laughter and good time are shared between strangers in the night. Apéritif Restaurant and Bar is at Viceroy Bali, Jalan Lanyahan, Banjar Nagi, Ubud.